KINGSPORT, Tenn. – Missouri Baptist manufactured runs in the middle innings and added two more in the eighth and lefthander David Mullins retired 16 of the final 18 batters of the game in No. 7 MBU’s 5-2 victory over 23rd-ranked Cumberland here Tuesday in the NAIA Championship Opening Round at Hunter Wright Stadium.
The Bulldogs (41-19) fall into the loser’s bracket and will face the winner of Tuesday’s late game between Bryan College and Culver-Stockton at 10 a.m. Central Time on Wednesday.
Mullins (8-1) outdueled CU’s Anthony Gomez, with the Spartans hurler allowing just one earned run on seven hits in his first nine-inning complete game of the year. He walked one and struck out nine, tying the most strikeouts by Cumberland in a single game this season.
The Bulldogs stranded the bases loaded in the first and two runners apiece in the second and fourth innings. Mullins settled in after the fourth, with just an error by MBU in the sixth and Tyler Anderson’s solo homer in the ninth the only baserunners the rest of the game.
Gomez (5-4) was again on the wrong end of a decision despite a good effort. The lefthander gave up three earned runs on eight hits in eight innings with two walks (one intentional) and five strikeouts. A balk by Gomez in the fifth put two runners in scoring position and a double down the rightfield line by Josh Fuentes put MBU ahead for good.
Anderson and Chris Hall were the only Bulldogs with two hits, while Ricky Coleman, Sam Lind, Justin Byrd and Bryan Haney all struck out twice against Mullins. Fuentes had two hits and two RBIs for the Spartans (47-12) and was the only MBU player with multiple hits.
The Bulldogs left the bases loaded in the first inning after singles from Coleman and Brady North and a walk to Josciel Veras, but Byrd struck out to end the threat.
The Spartans got singles by Fuentes and Orlando Oliveira in the bottom of the inning but Eli Roundtree popped out and Joe Stropp grounded out to end the inning.
Cumberland got on the board in the second thanks to an error, with second baseman Jeff Smith booting a grounder off the bat of Richie Seaton. Haney followed with a double deep into leftcenter and Seaton came around to score on the play for a 1-0 edge.
CU stranded two more runners in the fourth after singles from Anderson and Hall for seven left on base in the first four frames.
Dan Harper drew a leadoff walk for Missouri Baptist in the fifth but Gomez retired the next two batters. Brent Zimmerman singled to left and then a balk was called, putting both runners in scoring position. Fuentes dumped a double down the rightfield line, plating both runners for a 2-1 MBU advantage.
The Spartans added to the lead in the sixth with a one-out single to right by Smith and a double to rightcenter from Harper. Eric Garcia got down the suicide squeeze, scoring Smith, for a 3-1 MBU edge.
In the eighth Jos Stropp led off with a single to center and with one out Harper chopped to first. North dropped the ball, ending the chance for a doubleplay, but his flip to first landed between Lind and Gomez, with neither catching the ball.
Stropp reached third on the play when the ball rolled into foul territory and Garcia’s drive to rightcenter plated the runner. Harper moved to second on a passed ball and two wild pitches scored another unearned run for a 5-1 MBU lead.
Anderson’s first homer of the season, a line drive to leftfield, started the ninth, but a popout and two ground balls ended the game for the Bulldogs.